Kayla “Kyrie” Wright

Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians

Born 1996, Sylva, North Carolina

I am a lifelong resident and proud member of the Painttown Community of the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, North Carolina. I attended Jackson County Early College, where I received my Associates in Advertising and Graphic Design. Afterwards I attended Western Carolina University, where I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Studio Photography and Printmaking with a minor in Cherokee Studies. All the little things that are found in my background make up a lot of the work I produce today. Currently my main focus is on a body of work I call “Public Indians, Private Cherokees,” the namesake being inspired by a book of the same title by Christina Taylor Beard-Moose. The hometown is an important place for many of us. My hometown of Cherokee, North Carolina, is unique in that it is both a tourist draw and a remote mountain community. The public side can be a bit of a facade while the private holds a quieter struggle to maintain our cultural identity while living in a colonized world. I romanticize what the community is like today, presenting images from events that are open to the public and views from the private homes of members who still live on the land of our ancestors. The idea of photographing my hometown came about after I had worked at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. That job influenced my decision to take on Cherokee Studies at WCU, as well as photography projects. I often heard the phrase “Going to see the Indians” and it started to make my skin crawl. My people were talked about like they were zoo animals, like they were an exotic “other.” Yet, what we were still willing to share in our public events and museums was beautiful. When I found my head swirling in negative emotions thinking about these interactions with tourists I was able to ground myself knowing this was still my history and my home, no matter what

EBCI Member Levon Walker George discusses a pot that he is holding while at his job giving tours at the Oconoluftee Indian Village. Cherokee, North Carolina. September 8, 2019.